About 20% of the population has a serious aversion to the word ‘moist’. Readers of The New Yorker overwhelmingly chose it as the word to eliminate from the dictionary.
Research showed that ‘moist’-averse people also tend to dislike words, such as ‘damp’ and ‘wet’, showing that it’s probably the meaning, not the sound, of the word that gets people going. ‘Moist’-averse people also tend to have more general disgust reactions to bodily functions, suggesting that the problem is the connotations of bodily functions and sex.
A cognitive psychologist at Oberlin College, in Ohio, Paul Thibodeau, conducted a series of experiments to determine exactly why so many people hate the word ‘moist’. He tested three hypotheses:
- People hate the word ‘moist’ because of how it sounds.
- People hate the word ‘moist’ because of its connotations to bodily fluids.
- People hate the word ‘moist’ because they’re socialized to believe the word is disgusting.
Thibodeau found that participants didn’t mind similar words, like ‘hoist’, ‘foist’ or ‘rejoice’ so that disproved the first hypothesis.
Participants who didn’t like the word ‘moist’ also didn’t like words such as ‘phlegm’, ‘vomit’ and ‘diarrhea’. This suggested that a big part of why people hate the word so much, is its connotations to bodily fluids.
Watch: These sexy men make the word moist sound hot.
Thibodeau also showed two groups of participants two different videos: People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive saying the word ‘moist’ in awkward contexts, and a video of people using the word ‘moist’ to describe delicious cake. Participants who watched the first video of sexy men saying ‘moist’ found it more disgusting than the participants who watched the second video.
Thibodeau concluded that the hatred of the word ‘moist’ is due to an association between moisture and bodily fluids, but that part of the hatred of the word ‘moist’ may be because so many other people think it’s gross. Put ‘moist’ in the context of a delicious cake, and it’s fine.
So what is word aversion?
Word aversion is “a feeling of intense, irrational distaste for the sound or sight of a particular word or phrase, not because its use is regarded as etymologically or logically or grammatically wrong, nor because it’s felt to be over-used or redundant or trendy or non-standard, but simply because the word itself somehow feels unpleasant or even disgusting”.
Other common aversion words
Ointment, panties, curd, rural, dollop, slurp, pulp.
Watch: Science of why people hate the word ‘moist’.
Source: Capricorn Review